In the sixth chapter of his gospel, Mark tells the story of what was presumably Jesus’ first homecoming since he started his ministry. He went back to Nazareth and taught in the synagogue there, but something about Him offended the other Nazarenes. They thought they knew everything about Him – they knew He’d been a carpenter for most of His adult life and they knew the rest of His family. So when He started teaching and trying to do miracles there they resisted.
And let’s face it, if you or I were in the same situation as them, would we react very differently? Think about a reasonably normal person you know pretty well now, and then imagine that they leave for a while, maybe only a few months, but when you next see them you can barely understand what they’re talking about and they’re claiming they can do miracles. It’s unlikely that you’re going to take them seriously, and if they persist in it, you might get worried, or even angry with them. Now imagine that that same person is telling you that God Himself has authorised their teaching…it’s going to be a lot to handle.
So for that reason, I don’t think we can wholly blame the Nazarenes…but the fact remains that Jesus was not content with their reaction. Mark says that He was ‘amazed at their lack of faith’. What the people thought they knew about Jesus got in the way of their ability to see the truth about Him – that He was the messiah. Because of their refusal to accept Him, His actions in the town were limited and the people there did not get the full benefit of His power. They missed out massively because they couldn’t get the ideas about Him that they’d accepted for three decades out of their heads.
The problem that we now have is that a lot of the time, we can’t get ideas that have built up for centuries out of our heads and that is now keeping us from seeing the full extent of Jesus’ power. The way I see it, the ‘Christian West’ has, in some ways, become the 21st century Nazareth – Jesus’ hometown. Christianity was first preached in Europe (spreading to America later) and our culture is tied to it in a way that other world cultures aren’t.
This isn’t all bad, but it does mean that I think we’ve got a bit stuck and a lot of us, Christian or not, think we know who Jesus is. And some of us do, some of the time. But a lot of the time we either don’t know, or we forget. We forget that Jesus can’t be boxed down nicely, or shrunk to our size. We get angry when we don’t understand something or we turn away completely because we think we’ve been able to take a look at everything He has to offer and turn it down…because we know better or something.
With this in mind, is it any wonder that we don’t hear the stories of God’s power working here as we do in other parts of the world? I’ve heard incredible stories from places like India and parts of Africa, but I just haven’t seen God moving on that scale here. Is this why? If Jesus was to visit churches here today, would He be amazed at our lack of faith?
I hate to end on a negative note, so instead I’ll finish with a couple of questions to think about:
- What do you think you know about Jesus?
- How could you learn more about Him?
I’m hoping to follow this up in part in a few days with another post on the gospel of Mark, but just as a small thing to properly finish, if you want to challenge yourself on this subject, pick up a gospel and try to read it without assuming you already know what’s there, because I’ve been guilty of that far too often, and when you try to look at a gospel freshly again it really is amazing.